How to Use File Manager on Your iPhone “iOS and iPhone :: Gadget Hacks

Apple has finally provided us with a decent file manager in iOS 11. The new “Files” app replaces the not so old iCloud Drive app that appeared in iOS 9, but you can still access your iCloud Drive files in the new Files app. , as well as files from third-party cloud services. A nice improvement, isn’t it?

Files work best on an iPad, but we’re focusing this guide on the iPhone, where you can do a lot of the same things, only on a much smaller screen.

Landing pages

While it’s not quite like a file manager you’d find on an Android device, it’s still a step up from anything Apple has offered before. When you open the Files app for the first time, you go to the “Recents” or “Browse” tab for iCloud Drive. Recent displays your most recent images and access documents, as the name suggests, and Browse takes you to the main iCloud Drive page.

Sorting files and folders

On the iCloud Drive page, you can sort files and folders by name, date, size, or tags by tapping the “Sorted by …” drop-down list. You can also tap the list icon next to it to switch between grid and list views. There is also an option to create a new folder so that you can better organize your files in iCloud Drive.

Select items to share, copy, move or delete

By pressing the “Select” button, empty bullets appear either next to each item (in list view) in the current folder, or above each item (in grid view). When you select items, you have the option to share, copy, add to another folder, or delete them, with a few exceptions.

You cannot share any folder, only single files. Also, you cannot move any folder created by Apple to other folders – they must stay in the main section of iCloud Drive. This includes apps like Documents, Automator, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, TextEdit, Workflow, and any other Apple apps you’ve synced with iCloud Drive from iOS or macOS.

When you tap the share icon, you will see options to share or copy the files to another app. You can also save images to your Photos app, copy items, print images or documents, and more. There is also a small “+ Tag” icon at the top of the menu which allows you to quickly tag the item (s) with a default or custom tag. If you are using a Mac, you are probably already familiar with these tags.

When you copy items, they will appear in the same folder you are currently in and will be appended with a “2” or even a “3” if you have copied them before. You can always rename the folders later.

When you move files or folders, you can choose to move them to any folder in your iCloud drive. You can also choose to move them to certain stock folders in the “On my iPhone” section. In a previous version of Files, you could access all of your “On My iPhone” files separately, but now you can only access files in their respective applications.

Invite people to collaborate

In the share sheet, with an image or document selected, you can “Add people” to collaborate with you. You can invite them to collaborate via message, email, tweet, Facebook message, etc. You can also tap “Sharing options” to change who can access the file and what permissions they will have.

Drag things out

Just like on the on the Home screen or in apps such as Photos, you can drag and drop items into the Files app, as long as you stay in the iCloud Drive location. You can even drag and drop items onto the Key words section. For more information on this and other ways to drag and drop files, check out our full guide on the topic.

Image and PDF tagging

Without opening the photos and PDFs in other apps on your iPhone, when you preview them, you will have the option to tag and save them directly to the Files app. Just tap the marker icon while previewing an image or PDF to access markup tools.

Using long press menus

When you long press on a folder or file, you get options that let you do things like copy, duplicate, rename, move, delete, favorite, share, add tags, or get more information. The long-press context menu only works in iCloud Drive, not in third-party cloud drives.

Use of third-party cloud services

While most of the great tools are only available in the iCloud Drive location, there are third-party cloud services that you can access from the Files app. To do this, in the iCloud Drive section, tap “Locations.” Alternatively, you can put your iPhone in landscape mode and see the Browse window with all available locations listed.

Right now, we’ve noticed that Box, Google Drive, and Dropbox are all supported. All you need to do is make sure the app is installed and you’re ready to go. Future services will also be supported, such as Creative Cloud.

You can open most photos and documents in all of these third-party cloud services, but you can only really open the share sheet when they’re there. If they are images or PDF files, you can also add tags to them before sharing them. And you can share them on your iCloud drive by selecting “Save to Files” in the share sheet.

What you can do with different types of files

To help you better understand what you can do with certain types of files, we’ve created a quick list. Keep in mind that some of these files act weird in third-party cloud services, so the best you can do for those is share them.

  • Photos: Most can be previewed, annotated, and shared.
  • PDF: most can be previewed, annotated and shared.
  • Excel spreadsheets: can be previewed and shared. Not all file extensions are supported.
  • Word documents: can be previewed and shared. Not all file extensions are supported.
  • Movies: can be read and shared. Not all file extensions are supported.
  • ZIP files: Content can be previewed in some .zip files, but not all. Depending on the file types listed above, they can be previewed, read, annotated, and shared. You cannot completely unzip or zip.
  • Google docs: you can’t access them.

Also note that when it comes to files created with certain Apple apps (Pages, Numbers, GarageBand, etc.), you cannot preview them – when you tap on the files, they will open in their respective parent app. in place.

Things to look forward to

It’s a good start for a true file manager in iOS, but there are obviously a few things it can improve on. For example, when you preview a file in a third-party cloud drive, once you are done, it will take you back to the main screen. Browse window instead of returning to where you were in the third-party cloud drive.

It would also be nice to have a separate “On my iPhone” drive like the early beta versions, so you can view downloaded items on your iPhone but not actually in iCloud Drive. Right now, the only indicator that something is downloaded to your device in iCloud Drive is that there is no cloud icon on the tile.

And it would be nice to move something from iCloud Drive to iPhone’s built-in storage – or never to third-party cloud services. A way to open files in their respective parent apps from third-party cloud services would also be appreciated.

What would you like to see in the Files app? Share your thoughts below!

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Cover photo, screenshots and GIFs of Justin Meyers / Gadget Hacks


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Donald E. Hollingsworth